Being the organizer of a running group, a lot of people ask for my experience on hydration during the runs. I personally don’t like carrying anything on my hands, but know friends that are perfectly fine with the hand held bottles.
Last year, when I was training for the Rock n Roll Half during the summer in DC, I had no choice but to find a solution for that myself. I did a lot of research online, and was convinced I didn’t want anything on my back (the camelbak I wore for biking was definitely not an option, since my back was always a sweaty mess at the end of my commute), and finally settled on the Nathan Speed 4 waist belt.
For a while, I was debating between the FuelBelt and the Nathan. The FuelBelt is the one I see most often around DC, probably because it’s the only one that’s sold at the local running stores. I read pretty much every review for each of the fuel belts out there, and they both seem to have pretty similar reviews (mostly happy customers).
Why did I choose the Nathan one?
Personally, I thought the Nathan was a bit less horrid looking. Sure, the FuelBelt comes in all sorts of colors, but the belt’s base color is black, and well, it’s just kind of ugly, specially in a bright summer day. The Nathan was also about 15 bucks cheaper at the time.
But the main thing that persuaded me over to the Nathan belt, way more than looks and price, was that it held four 10 oz bottles vs. four 8oz bottles from the FuelBelt. That’s an extra 8oz of water I’d have on a run with me! A BIG difference when I’m logging 10 miles on a hot summer day. (Have I mentioned that the endless miles of DC trails offer no water fountains whatsoever?)
The belt doesn’t bounce at all. Sure, it shifts sometimes, but so does anything you put on your waist for a long period of time, but there’s no bouncing. The longest run I had with it was 11.7 miles, and though my sports bra chafed the heck out of me, not once did I have any chafing issues with the water belt.
But, let’s face it. It’s not a fun thing to wear. When all the bottles are full, it’s heavy. You don’t really feel the weight on your hips, that’s actually spread out pretty well and doesn’t bother you, but once you start running, your whole body feels heavier because of the extra weight you’re carrying on your hips. It’s an incentive to drink the water, no doubt. The slosh-slosh sound is also a bit distracting, but that’s unavoidable when carrying water around.
I love how the Nathan has two separate pockets for stuff. That means I can put Gu packets in one, and also put the empty Gu packets back in there (another thing missing from the trails? Trash cans!) without worrying about my keys or cellphone getting gooey, since they can be stored in another pocket. The pockets are not huge, but just big enough to store what you need for a long run. A big plus!
The big major letdown of the water belts? (Regardless of brand.) The lack of insulation. There’s really no way around it. I always freeze my bottles overnight, but within a half hour of the run, the water is lukewarm, an hour in and I’m basically drinking tea. Unflavored tea of all things. It’s disgusting.
If you use one of the bottles for Gatorade like I do? Then you have Gatorade flavored tea. Believe me, it’s just as gross. The other bad thing with carrying Gatorade with you is that all the sloshing causes it to foam up. So towards the end of the run, you’re drinking Gatorade foam. Hot Gatorade foam.
This year I decided to try out a small Camelbak to see how it feels (if only for the insulation!). I tried it a couple of times, and I’ll be posting a review soon.
Have you tried water belts? How do you like them?